Defining cultural competence in early learning settings

It is increasingly being recognized that practitioners and evaluators using Quality Rating Improvement Services (QRIS) in early child development settings, must address the growing diversity of the families and children served in these settings.

The US-based National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has created the Quality Benchmark for Cultural Competence Project (QBCCP) in order to develop a tool to assess the level of competence in programs participating in a QRIS. Driving the process was the fundamental belief that “for the optimal development and learning of all children, educators must accept the legitimacy of children’s home langauge, respect … the home culture, and promote and encourage the active involvement and support of all families, including the extended and nontraditional family units” (NAEYC 1995, 2).

Eight concepts of cultural competenece:

1. Acknowledge that children are nested in families and communities with unique strengths. Recognize and mitigate the tension between the early childhood profession’s perceptions of the child as the center of the work versus the family as the center of the work.

2. Build on and identify the strengths and shared goals between the profession and families and recognize commonalities in order to meet these goals.

3. Understand and authentically incorporate the traditions and history of the program participants and their impacts on child­ rearing practices.

4. Actively support each child’s development within the family as complex and culturally­ driven ongoing experiences.

5. Recognize and demonstrate awareness that individuals’ and institutions’ practices are embedded in culture.

6. Ensure that decisions and policies regarding all aspects of a program embrace and respect participants’ language, values, attitudes, beliefs and approaches to learning.

7. Ensure that policies and practices build upon the home languages and dialects of the children, families and staff in programs and support the preservation of home languages.

For more information, visit the NAEYC website.